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Multicore co-processor eases real-time programming

10 Nov 2014

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Texas Instruments (TI) has rolled out a 200MHz low-latency multicore co-processor optimised for deterministic, real-time processing with local peripherals and memory that enables customers to save time and money by removing expensive FPGAs or ASICs from system designs. The programmable real-time unit (PRU) on Sitara processors allows customers to differentiate their products by offloading real-time processing from the ARM core, stated the company.

The PRU offloads processing from the ARM in order to manage deterministic tasks such as time-critical I/O manipulation and is robust enough to enable complex functions such as motor control in applications such as 3D printers, LED lighting control, robotics, thermal printing and more.

The programmable nature of the PRU, along with its single-cycle direct access to I/O pins within 5ns, and SoC resources, provides flexibility in implementing fast real-time responses, specialised data handling operations, custom peripheral interfaces, and offloading tasks from the other processor cores of the SoC. It also gives developers the ability to implement different interfaces including bit-banging serial interfaces such as I2C and SPI, advanced PWMs, motor control, RS485, sample rate conversion and sensor monitoring for a variety of end applications.

TI offers a PRU software support package that provides a framework and examples for developing software for the PRU. This package contains example PRU firmware as well as application loader code for the host OS. The examples demonstrate the PRU capabilities in order to interact with and control the system and its resources. The recently released C compiler for PRU as part of the Code Composer Studio IDE v6 makes it easier to program the PRU and eliminates the need for assembly level programming because developers can debug over JTAG, continued TI.

The PRU cape plug-in board sold and supported by TI is an addition to capes available from the community for BeagleBone Black and gives customers an inexpensive way to evaluate the PRU capabilities on Sitara processors. The PRU cape allows easy evaluation and learning to program the dual-core PRU in AM335x processors. The code is also reusable in other Sitara processor families such as the AM437x solutions, which include a more feature rich, quad-core PRU. This cape provides access to a variety of features including basic general purpose output (GPO) via seven LEDs, general purpose input (GPI) via two push buttons, simple audio, UART, HDQ temperature sensor, GPIO header and a proto board area. Developers of the PRU will have support from TI and will be embraced by the BeagleBoard.org community. The BeagleBone Black PRU cape is available for $39.




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